Frances O’Connor

Introducing… FilmFest Australia

FilmFest Australia 2012

More astute UK-based fans of Australian cinema may have noticed that March came and went this year with a notable absence on the London film calendar. Over seventeen glorious years, the Barbican’s annual London Australian Film Festival had existed to satisfy our cinematic appetites for all things Aussie.

Sadly, however, the 2011 LAFF was the Barbican’s last, threatening to leave us all high and dry. But fear ye not, UK-based Aussie film fans because the wonderful FilmFest Australia is rising, phoenix-like to take LAFF’s place in 2012 and beyond. Newly independent, but still programmed and coordinated by the core team behind LAFF, FilmFest Australia promises to continue that festival’s dedication to bringing an array of antipodean cinema treats to UK audiences.

Later this month, FilmFest Australia will be inaugurated with a taster festival at two Picturehouse venues in London, kicking off at the Clapham Picturehouse before skipping across town the following weekend to its freshly minted Hackney cousin. In 2013, the festival hopes to expand to LAFF proportions, with a full programme of features, documentaries and shorts showcasing the latest and greatest Aussie films. But this initial 2012 edition is no slouching affair, with one world premiere slotting alongside a host of UK debuts, with every screening preceded by a specially selected short from the team at Flickerfest, Australia’s premier short film festival.

Not Suitable for Children - Australian posterThe FFA 2012 festivites get underway on Friday September 14 at Clapham Picturehouse with the UK premiere of Peter Templeman’s Michael Lucas-scripted testicular cancer comedy Not Suitable for Children starring Ryan Kwanten and Sarah Snook, followed by a festival screening of a film currently on UK general release, Stephan ‘Priscilla‘ Elliott’s rawkus Blue Mountains wedding farce, A Few Best Men. On the Saturday, the south-west London venue plays host to another UK prem – legendary director Fred Schepisi’s Patrick White adaptation, The Eye of the Storm, starring Charlotte Rampling and festival patron Geoffrey Rush – and the first ever public screening (and thus world premiere!) of Mark Lamprell’s Goddess, a kitsch’n sink musical comedy starring Laura Michelle Kelly, Magda Szubanski and Ronan Keating! The Clapham leg of the fest concludes on Sunday September 16 with Sophie Hyde and Bryan Mason’s moving dance doco Life In Movement and Ivan Sen’s indigenous gangster tale, Toomelah.

The following weekend sees FilmFest Australia move to the Hackney Picturehouse, beginning on Friday September 21 with encore screenings of Not Suitable for Children and Toomelah, whilst Saturday brings two more UK premieres, the latest feature from the team behind much-loved classics The Castle and The Dish, Any Questions for Ben?, and Craig Lahiff’s twisting outback noir Swerve, featuring rising stars Jason Clarke and Emma Booth. The inaugural festival draws to a close on Sunday September 23 with a repeat showing of The Eye of the Storm and an encore cinema performance of Daniel Nettheim’s recently released feature debut, The Hunter, starring Willem Defoe and Frances O’Connor, and adapted from a novel by Julia Leigh (Sleeping Beauty).

If those descriptions aren’t enough to whet your appetite, stay tuned to The Far Paradise in the coming week as we present our top five reasons to see each film at this years festival. The ‘5 Reasons’ coverage kicks off with opening night films Not Suitable for Children and A Few Best Men.

Don’t forget to visit the FFA website for the latest news and updates, sign up to their email list for discounted tickets, ‘like’ them on Facebook, ‘follow’ them on Twitter, or watch the spiffing trailer for FilmFest Australia 2012 right here:

Griff the Invisible and Blessed out now on DVD/Blu-Ray

Having previously brought Beautiful Kate and Bitter & Twisted to UK audiences, Matchbox Films -those fine purveyours of Antipodean (and other) delights – have just released two more Australian titles in the UK.

Appearing shortly after the much-lauded Kick-Ass, Griff the Invisible (2010) no doubt suffered a similar fate to fellow super(anti)hero black comedy Super – with endless comparisons between these tales of ordinary guys turned (not particularly) super. In this iteration, Griff is a highly disfunctional office worker who spends his days being relentlessly harassed by his co-workers. At night, however, he dons a cape and roams the streets, protecting the neighbourhood from thugs and lowlifes until he finally meets his match – a girl called Melody who shares his aptitude for daydreaming.

Despite being faintly damned as ‘twee’, ‘shaggy’ and ‘uneven’, many critics praised this Aussie superhero rom-com for being ‘cheefully offbeat’ with ‘moments of pure magic’. Produced by Jan Chapman and providing the feature directorial debut for Aussie actor Leon Ford, the film features True Blood star Ryan Kwanten in the lead role alongside Maeve Dermody (Black Water, Beautiful Kate).

Griff The Invisible is out now on DVD and Blu-Ray.

UK artwork for Blessed (2009)Also out now on Matchbox is Blessed (2009), the latest feature from Ana Kokkinos, the talent behind the brilliantly unrelenting features Head On (1998) and The Book of Revelation (2005). Relating the interweaving tales of a handful of kids living on the streets of Melbourne, the film is adapted from Who’s Afraid of the Working Class?, a tough theatrical portmanteau borne from a collaboration between a quintet of Australia’s finest writers – Andrew Bovell, Patricia Cornelius, Melissa Reeves, Christos Tsiolkas and Irine Vela.

Featuring an ensemble cast that includes Frances O’Connor, Miranda Otto, Deborra-Lee Furness, William McInnes and Sophie Lowe, Blessed plays out on the meaner streets of Melbourne over a 24 hour period, and builds upon a moody (some might say ‘gloomy’) atmosphere to provide a lingering portrait of the difficulties faced by children and parents alike as they struggle to cope on the fringes of society.

Blessed is out now on DVD.